Melissa Kovner

Staff Writer

After graduating from Boston University with a degree in Film & Television, Melissa moved to New York City to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Melissa currently works as an Associate Producer and Production Coordinator for Brooklyn-based video production company Dig For Fire, where she helps create live music entertainment.



Outrage Review

Outrage is the latest yakuza film from Japanese director Takeshi Kitano. It is a look at the cyclical nature of organized crime in Japan, and what it takes to survive in this world. The yakuza are gangsters, hell bent on ruling their turf, and getting what they want. There is no mercy among the yakuza, and one step out of line results in torture or swift death. As we soon find out, to rise to the top of the yakuza food chain, “Outlasting everyone is the best revenge these days.”

Director Kitano is known for his over-the-top gangster films, yet most of Outrage is far from over-the-top. An eerie grey tone shrouds the film, clearly a stylistic choice by the director. Kitano, who also plays a large role in the film, dresses both characters and settings in shades of black and white, creating a monochromatic world in which these men fight one another. The film is so slow it barely holds your attention for the its full two hours. For a film where so many people get murdered, very little actually happens. There is far too much dialogue and almost no action in the film. What action does occur, however, is well done and highly stylized. His torture scenes are full of exaggerated blood and are gruesome to watch. He uses simple torture tactics, but they’re horrific to see. It’s cringe-worthy to see someone stabbed in the ear with chopsticks or sliced in the face as blood spurts across the room. In these moments Kitano chooses these forms of torture in a calculated manner. They seem so simple they could happen to anyone, making them even more grisly. But besides the few bloody moments, the film plods along.

Feb
10
2012
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The Other F Word Review

Based on the book “Punk Rock Dad” by Pennywise frontman Jim Lindberg, The Other F Word takes a look behind the punk rock scene and into the homes of some of today’s punk rock heroes. Gone are the nihilistic days of lore, the days of sex, drugs and anarchy. The punks we grew up with are now grownups themselves, parents teaching their own kids the ways of the world. Director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins explores what it means to be a punk rock dad today. At times hilarious, at others heartbreaking, The Other F Word is the story of changing lives within an ever-changing subculture.

Feb
02
2012
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Happy, Happy Review

Maja is happy. She lives a simple life with her husband Eirik and son Theodore in snowy, rural Norway, and is content with the way things are. All that changes when the new neighbors move in. Sigve and Elisabeth arrive one day with their adopted Ethiopian son, Noa, and move into the house right next door. Maja is ecstatic to have new people to interact with. But she could never have imagined how intense the relationship between the two families would become. Happy, Happy (Sykt lykkelig) is the story of a woman’s struggle to find herself, and a tale of two couples trying to regain their love.

Jan
30
2012
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Cold Sweat Review

I’ve never been one for horror movies, but I’ve always been adept at spotting a good story, and Cold Sweat (Sudor Frío) is not good. A weak plot and undeveloped characters do not make for an exciting or scary movie. On the rare occasion that I choose to watch a horror movie, I want to be terrified. I want to cover my eyes, jump and scream out loud. Spanish director Adrian Garcia Bogliano fails to provide this level of fear to his audience. His attempt to take an insightful look at the consequences of technology simply falls flat.

Jan
25
2012
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The Santa Incident Review

Great holiday films are few and far between. Everyone wants to find that feel- good family movie for Christmas, but for the most part, we stick to the classics. With so many holiday movies out there, it’s hard to make one with lasting impact. The Santa Incident is just another Hallmark Christmas movie that falls flat in its attempt at finding a place in a niche market.

The Santa Incident begins as Santa’s sleigh is shot out of the sky by a government jet. Quite the intense opening scene for a children’s Christmas movie. Cut to two young kids discovering an unconscious body on the train tracks, even more terrifying for the child viewer. But surprise, surprise, this unidentified man is none other than Santa Claus!

Nov
01
2011
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Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest Review

For someone unfamiliar with the inner workings of the hip-hop industry, Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest was a welcome lesson in musical history. The film chronicles the rise and fall of a group beloved by anyone remotely interested in hip-hop.

We begin on the streets of Queens, NY, with four young kids who befriended one another through their love of music. Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White came together to form A Tribe Called Quest in 1988, fitting into a newly emerging sect of the New York hip-hop scene. Along with The Jungle Brothers, De La Sol, Queen Latifa and many others, A Tribe Called Quest became part of a tight-knit group of rappers and musicians who called themselves The Native Tongues. Drawing on roots, bebop and jazz, to name a few, these artists sampled genres rarely used in hip-hop of the early 80s. Their message was about unity, community and expression. The Tribe was creating, as Mike D of The Beastie Boys expresses it, “party music with a consciousness.”

Oct
31
2011
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The Captains Review

“That’s a lot of Star Trek” is something a Trekkie would love to hear, but for the layperson, Star Trek trivia is as mystifying as the Vulcan "Mind Meld." Written and directed by William Shatner, The Captains is a look back on the actors who starred as heads aboard the Starship Enterprise. The man who brought Captain Kirk to life visits his co-captains around the world, delving into their lives on and off screen.

Oct
26
2011
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Moneyball Review

“It’s easy to be romantic about baseball.”  As history goes to show, filmmakers and storytellers never tire of telling tales of the great American pastime. Moneyball takes a new approach to the sport of baseball, focusing on a time not too long ago when one man changed the game forever.

Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian’s big screen adaptation of Michael Lewis’ book focuses on the men behind the team, and is more about overcoming obstacles and following your heart than about winning the game. The screenplay went through numerous updates with contributions from two of Hollywood’s strongest writers, and what resulted is a film that captures the character, heart, and brains of baseball.

Sep
24
2011
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Win Win Review

It takes skill to pull off a great sports movie, and even more to make it poignant. Win Win is a wonderful combination of sports movie and indie drama, wrapping the two into an inspirational story of family. Writer/Director Thomas McCarthy gathered a talented group of actors, writers and athletes together to make a film far overlooked at the box office and well deserving of recognition.

You can’t go wrong with Paul Giamatti. The prolific actor brings just the right combination of comedy and heart to his character, Mike Flaherty. Mike’s outlook on life is as bleak as the small Northeast town he lives in. Mike runs an elder law practice in the small town of New Providence, New Jersey, the town in which writer McCarthy and co-writer Joe Tiboni both grew up in. The writers’ connection to their hometown is apparent throughout the film, as we’re given an intimate look at New Jersey life, authentic high school wrestling attire and all. These two writers do a great job crafting Mike’s world and we’re immediately caught up in the life of this lawyer/ volunteer wrestling coach.

Aug
24
2011
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The Grace Card Review

Forgiveness can set you free. This is the message instilled upon us in the religious drama, The Grace Card. Directed by David Evans and written by Howard Klausner, the film follows the lives of two men, as they become intertwined through the grace of God.

Bill “Mac” McDonald lost his faith a long time ago. After a terrible tragedy took the life of his first son, Mac became so bitter, racist and self-loathing that he shut out his family, and the world. He turned to the police force, becoming a cop in the hopes of preventing future tragedies like the one he experienced. Mac’s remaining son, Blake, is a bit of a delinquent. He’s flunking his senior year of high school, doing drugs and sneaking out at night, not to mention disrespecting his parents. For as long as Blake can remember, his father has laid the blame for his brother’s death on everyone around him, and it’s nearly torn their family to pieces. When Mac receives a new partner on the force, his bitterness and racist beliefs seeps to the surface. He resents Sam, an African American minister-turned-cop who wants nothing more than for all people to get along and love one another.

Aug
21
2011
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Gone Review

Lifetime movies are meant to be heart wrenching in the most simplistic way, but Gone is far too complicated for a made-for-television movie. When I snuggle up on the couch with a good old-fashioned Lifetime movie, I have certain expectations. Sadly, Gone did not fulfill my desires. It’s not based on a shocking true story, it’s not sexy, and it didn’t make me cry. It only made me miss those cold winter nights when a Lifetime movie is all a lady needs.

Nurse Amy Kettering (Molly Parker) is a broken woman. Haunted by a terrifying attack from her past, Amy drifts through life, a shell of her former self. This attack three years early let to the demise of her marriage, and her husband David has recently filed for sole custody in their daughter Emily. When Emily is kidnapped, Amy is informed that the only way she’ll see her daughter again is if she kills a mystery patient in her hospital ward.

Aug
21
2011
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Mi-5: Volume 9 Review

The series, which began on the BBC in 2002, follows a team of Spooks (spies) on their missions to keep England safe from harm. MI-5, or The Security Service, is a British Intelligence Agency akin to the CIA or FBI. It’s interesting to see national security from the British perspective. Here we see America and the political climate through the eyes of another superpower, as MI-5 tests their relationship with the CIA in Episode 9.6. The series seems much less about war and much more about protecting a country and its people from harm. It’s amazing how often these heroic agents save the Western World from extinction; makes you wonder what’s really going on out there. Not only does MI-5 manage to hide conspiracies from the public, but they often hide it from their friends and enemies as well.

Jul
26
2011
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The Iron Triangle Review

Countless films have been made chronicling the life of the American soldier during the Vietnam War, some profoundly moving, others just taking up space. The 1989 movie The Iron Triangle falls into the latter category, yet takes a different approach to the Vietnam story, giving us a glimpse into the psyche of the Vietnamese soldier. We enter the war on the American side, following Beau Bridges’ character Captain Keane as he leads his troops through the jungle. As he and his men get closer to their target, they are picked off one by one, and soon we meet the enemy. We are introduced to the young soldier Ho (Liem Whatley) after he kills one of Keane’s men, and we follow him into the jungle where he rejoins his unit. Ho is a young man, only 17, with high aspirations and a dream to be the greatest soldier of all.  

Jul
05
2011
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Cedar Rapids Review

After six seasons on "The Office" and two Hangover films, Ed Helms finally gets to be number one in a movie. When Tim Lippe is unexpectedly sent to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for an annual insurance convention, he was prepared for a quiet, structured weekend of work. Little did he know that one weekend in Cedar Rapids would change his life forever.

Tim Lippe is a straight-laced, standup guy who is content with his simple life in small-town Wisconsin. From a young age he knew he wanted to be an insurance salesman, not for the money, put because he saw them as heroes, people who went out of their way to help those in need. When Brown Insurance’s all-star salesman tragically dies, the company needs a last-minute representative at the convention. Lippe is chosen by Bill, the company’s money-hungry owner, to travel to Cedar Rapids and bring home the coveted 'Two Diamonds’ award. Lippe is the perfect candidate: a dedicated, hard-working do-gooder who would never cross the line of decency. But Lippe soon learns that Cedar Rapids changes people and what happens at the convention stays there.

Jul
03
2011
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From Prada To Nada Review

As Katy Perry’s “California Girls” plays over the opening credits, I can’t help but hope that From Prada To Nada will exceed my low expectations. But great pop music can’t save everything, and this movie is no exception. The movie tells the story of Norah and Mary, two well-to-do sisters who lose everything and must learn to live and love on their own.

The movie is based on Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility, with a Latin flare. When Mary and Norah’s father passes away, the girls discover he was bankrupt, and soon lose the lavish life they always knew. While it’s no 10 Things I Hate About You, the film tries its best to modernize a piece of classic literature.

Jun
02
2011
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Drop Dead Diva: The Complete Second Season Review

All any woman wants is to be told she’s beautiful just the way she is. This is the message Drop Dead Diva strives to convey, and does a great job of developing in its second season.            

Season 2 picks up right where Season 1 left off, bringing us back into the new life of Jane Bingum (Brooke Elliott), a smart, loveable lawyer who’s a little overweight. For those who didn’t watch Season 1, Jane’s body gave once-aspiring supermodel Deb a second chance at life. After being killed in car crash, superficial Deb wakes up in a new body, the body of chubby Jane. In Season 2, Jane is still adjusting to her new life, but nearly all traces of the once-vapid Deb are gone. Sure, she’s still a little vain, boy crazy and fashion-forward, but now her mind and heart are in the right place.

Jun
02
2011
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Behemoth Review

There are only so many monster thrillers one can stomach, and if the movie is not done right, it’s just laughable. But I guess Behemoth is alright for a made-for-TV movie. SyFy follows the formula they’re best at, creating yet another potentially apocalyptic tale. We enter the town of Assention, a small town at the foot of a mountain. Cue sinister music. Begin chase scene. Enter man in black running from danger, only to meet his demise and leave a mysterious black case that must contain something so important we’ll certainly return to it later.

Cut to rugged handsome construction man Thomas (Ed Quinn), who will clearly be the one to save the day. When one of Thomas’ workers mysteriously dies, he begins to realize things are amiss. His suspicions are confirmed when he runs into his ex-girlfriend, Emily, a geologist who has returned to her hometown to study the recent tremors around the town. But Emily isn’t the only one with theories.

May
08
2011
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Benny & Joon Review

Love can be found in the strangest of places. Benny & Joon is a story of love, acceptance and family with a quirky twist. Joon Pearl, played by Mary Stuart Masterson, isn’t your average girl. She’s an artist, a free spirit and a loyal sister. She’s also a young woman with mental illness, who has spent her entire life in her brother's care. She's been coddled and protected by her brother Benny Pearl (the ever-handsome Aidan Quinn), but when Sam comes along, the siblings' world is turned inside out. What was once a structured, organized, sheltered life becomes a frenzy of color, emotion and love.

The always-endearing Johnny Depp plays Sam, an "eccentric" man who comes into the Pearls' life through a bet. He’s a waif who dresses like Buster Keaton, cooks grilled cheese with an iron and dances to his own tune, just as the lovely Joon does. To Benny, Sam is bizarre, obnoxious and an imposition. But to Joon, Sam is the oddest, most wonderful person she has ever met. The two hit it off and become fast friends, and Sam doesn't seem to notice Joon's eccentricities.

May
04
2011
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Father Of My Children Review

Once a successful French film producer, Gregoire Canvel is at the end of the line. His latest production has left him bankrupt, with nowhere to turn. What’s a man to do who has spent more time on the phone than with his loved ones? Father Of My Children (Le Pere de Mes Enfants), is a portrait of a grieving family who must learn to cope with a tragic loss.

The film, based on the life and death of struggling producer Humbert Balson, delves into the causes and effects of suicidal depression. Gregoire is moving through life, cigarette and phone in hand, seemingly content with the busy life of a producer. But we soon find out that his once flourishing career as a film producer is at rock bottom. Every film he has in production is struggling and he has so much debt through his Paris-based company, Moon Films, it seems there’s no way to remedy the situation. We are soon introduced to his family, a wife and three adorable daughters, whom he loves dearly but struggles to make time for. Despite his taxing career, the family’s bond is strong and Gregoire’s daughters adore him. But the love for his family can’t save his company, and when Gregoire can see no way out, he makes his own.

Apr
10
2011
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Teenage Paparazzo Review

I first fell in love with Adrian Grenier in 1999 when he played Chase Hammond, Melissa Joan Hart’s love interest in Drive Me Crazy. How can a lady resist that perfectly coiffed hair, chiseled features and piercing eyes? In 2004, he won America over with his role as the handsome movie star Vincent Chase on HBO’s Entourage. The show’s success has allowed Grenier to work as he sees fit, selectively choosing roles and dedicating his time to projects of passion. Teenage Paparazzo is Grenier’s exploration of the way in which celebrity infiltrates all aspects and all ages of society.

Apr
01
2011
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